Teaching English in China: No Shortage of Jobs
Recently single, my son grown up, and no major job commitments, I was footloose and fancy-free and looking at a small ad in the local paper: “English Teachers Wanted in China—No Experience Necessary.” The door was open; China beckoned. Not trusting the door to stay open for long, I got on the phone and had an interview arranged in two days’ time.
I wasn’t overly confident of my chances, having no teaching experience and wondered if “I’m friendly, easygoing, and patient” would cut it (not realizing how important these traits are for an oral English teacher). So I was a little surprised when they appeared to find me suitable. Three weeks later, I was in China.
I have since learned that it is not always so simple and a more thorough examination usually takes place—from both parties.
I would recommend checking:
- The claims of any prospective employer or recruiter. Ask for the name of a foreign employee, past or present, with whom you can get in contact. If they balk, it would be safe to assume they have something to hide. Remember, however, there are many disgruntled teachers who do not fit in due to their own eccentricities.
- Salary. Monthly salaries range between 6,000 RMB and 30,000 RMB (US$900-$US4500), often including accommodations and airfare reimbursement, such as 1-way for a 6-month contract and return for 12 months, paid on completion of the contract. Also ask about the payment schedule, holiday pay, benefits, and taxes.
- Accommodation: is it shared? Are there restrictions on having visitors? Is there a curfew? What are the utility costs, etc.?
- Teaching hours and other responsibilities.
- The amenities available. You can investigate this on the Web, as many schools have websites, as do towns and cities.
- Visa responsibility and ease of renewal. Legitimate schools (licensed by the government to employ foreign teachers) should have no problem with this.
- Who will be your contact when you arrive and what level of continuing support will be provided? Remember you are in the box seat—there is no shortage of jobs in China.
There are myriad reasons why people come to China and teach, not the least being volunteer work, but there are also plenty like me who require at least the market rate as compensation. I have been here for four years now and have taught at kindergartens through universities, finding my own jobs and working for companies that act as recruiters and provide teachers to various schools, as well as private tutoring.
Employment largely falls into three categories:
- directly for a school or training center
- via a recruiter
Remuneration is usually a monthly salary or a wage paid per hour per class. Often your first job is organized before moving to China, and it usually includes a visa and accommodation. Once settled in and with some work and living experience you can be more selective and search for the cream—smaller class sizes, older or adult students, higher wages, and a location of your choice.
I have worked in big cities and small towns and have loved every job I have had. You will be paid far more than the local teachers and probably the parents of most of your students. It is a wonder there is not more resentment, but essentially Chinese are pragmatic people who see the value of providing their kids with an opportunity to improve their English, and they understand that the higher salary is only high relative to local wages. While in China you can enjoy a high standard of living, plenty of opportunity to travel (teachers have great holidays), and you can even save some money. I am, for the first time in my life!
Use the Internet for job hunting—there are many websites. Just type “ESL teaching jobs China” into a search engine or see job feeds provided by Transitions Abroad's Top Teaching Jobs in China or job boards as provided by other sites such as Dave's ESL Cafe and organizations such as English First: Teaching Jobs in China.